Struggle by a Stream
Click below to download the Cornerstone Connections leader’s guide and student lesson. This week’s resources also include two lesson plans and a discussion starter video which offer different ways of looking at the topic. Each lesson plan includes opening activities, scripture passages, discussion questions, and real-life applications.
Patriarch and Prophets (or Beginning of the End) chapter 17
Patriarch and Prophets (or Beginning of the End) chapter 18
The life of Jacob points out the unconditional acceptance of God. Persevering through his problems, Jacob was able to experience joy as he trusted the broken pieces of his life to God.
[Ask students] What’s something you want more than anything else in the world? It could be an item, a goal, a school you dream of attending, a career you imagine yourself in. How long would you be willing to work for it?
In this week’s lesson, Jacob flees to Haran (in modern-day Turkey) with just the clothes on his back. His habit of tricking people to get what he wants has left him high and dry, and when he falls in love, he has nothing to offer as a dowry for the bride’s family. Instead, he has to work for it, with a steeper price than he ever imagined. Meanwhile, he discovers that no matter how far he runs, his past keeps catching up with him—yet his God is with him every step of the way.
What goes around, comes around. That old saying has never been more true than in the stories of Abraham and his descendants. One person after another deceives someone else, only to be deceived in a similar way. To name just a few:
God promised that the whole world would be blessed through Abraham’s descendants, but as one selfish act led to another, it seemed they were becoming a curse instead (see, for instance, Genesis 34:30). Without God’s intervention, and family members choosing to follow God’s leading, Jacob’s family could have vanished like any other ancient tribe. How God redeemed them—and ultimately redeemed the world through them—is an incredible story of how God can work through the most flawed of people.
BIBLE STUDY GUIDE
Read Genesis 28:10-22.
Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. p 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel, d though the city used to be called Luz.
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God 22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.
Laboring for Laban
Lev Kuleshov was a Russian filmmaker in the 1910s and 1920s who first demonstrated what’s now called the Kuleshov effect. Show a picture of someone with a neutral face, then cut to a bowl of soup, and viewers will perceive the person as hungry. Show the same face and cut to someone in a coffin, and they’ll think the person is sad. [You may want to share the examples of this that can be found online.]
The Bible uses a similar literary technique the first time it introduces Laban, Leah and Rachel’s father. Let’s jump back to Genesis 24, where Abraham’s servant meets him as he’s come looking for a wife for Isaac—with rich gifts and a substantial “bride price” to pay the woman’s family.
Read Genesis 24:28-30
The young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things. 29 Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban, and he hurried out to the man at the spring. 30 As soon as he had seen the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and had heard Rebekah tell what the man said to her, he went out to the man and found him standing by the camels near the spring. 31 “Come, you who are blessed by the Lord,” he said. “Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.”
Read Genesis 29:9-30.
In this story, set roughly a century later, Laban once again is looking to see what he can get for a bride price for the women of his family—but having left everything behind in Canaan, Jacob has nothing to offer but hard work. For Jacob, time will be money—and he’ll pay a steeper price than he ever imagined.
While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherd. 10 When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud. 12 He had told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and a son of Rebekah. So she ran and told her father.
As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things. 14 Then Laban said to him, “You are my own flesh and blood.”
Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel
After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, 15 Laban said to him, “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.”
Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”
Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.
Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.”
So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her. 24 And Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter as her attendant.
When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”
Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. 27 Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.”
And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29 Laban gave his servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her attendant. 30 Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.
Farewell to Laban
In the story of Jacob, like King David centuries later, plural marriages bring endless grief. In Jacob’s case, he comes to the point where he has to leave Laban for the good of them both.
Read Genesis 31:1-3.
Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.” 2 And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been.
3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
Read Genesis 31:22-29.
22 On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. 23 Taking his relatives with him, he pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. 24 Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”
25 Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead when Laban overtook him, and Laban and his relatives camped there too. 26 Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. 27 Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps? 28 You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing. 29 I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’
Read Genesis 31: 43-55.
43 Laban answered Jacob, “The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne? 44 Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.”
45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 He said to his relatives, “Gather some stones.” So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed.
48 Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” That is why it was called Galeed. 49 It was also called Mizpah, v because he said, “May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. 50 If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.”
51 Laban also said to Jacob, “Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me. 53 May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.”
So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac. 54 He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there.
55 Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home.
The Time of Jacob’s Trouble
Jacob was born a fighter. Of course, not every fight he took on was a wise one, but even so, this most astonishing of Bible stories is quite fitting. Having just wrapped things up with Laban, and fearing his brother will finally follow through and kill him—and maybe his family—upon his return, Jacob is in mental and emotional turmoil. He feels the guilt of his past mistakes, and worries that it has all come down to this. When a mysterious figure attacks him in the dark, it’s a fight that’s as much spiritual as it is physical.
Read Genesis 32:1-12.
1Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim.
3 Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4 He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my lord Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. 5 I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.’ ”
6 When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”
7 In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, e and the flocks and herds and camels as well. 8 He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.”
9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12 But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’ ”
Read Genesis 32:22-31.
22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, k because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, q and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.
Jacob’s journey is one of drama, tragedy, and remorse—yet also forgiveness, reassurance, and redemption. He reminds us that God can work through any one of us.
For a Relational Bible Study (RBS) you’ll want to get into the Scripture passage and encourage the youth to imagine participating in the story while it’s happening. Then you will be able to better apply it to your own situation today.
You will need to ask God for the Holy Spirit to be present as your small group discusses the questions (no more than 3-6 people in a group is recommended). Start with the opening question. It is a personal question and the answer is unique for each individual. There is no right answer and nobody is an expert here, so don’t be surprised when you hear different responses. You are depending on the Holy Spirit to be present and to speak through your group. Say what God prompts you to say, and listen to what others share.
Take turns reading the chapter out loud. Follow that with giving the students some time to individually mark their responses to the questions (a PDF version of the handout is available as a download). This gives each person a starting point for responding when you start to share as a group. Next, begin the discussion by asking the students to share what they marked and why on each question as you work your way through. Feel free to take more time on some questions than others as discussion warrants.
Encourage each person in the group to apply what is discussed to their personal lives and to share with the group what they believe God wants them to do. Then ask them to pray that God will help each of them to follow through in doing so. Remind them to expect that God will show them ways to live out the message of this passage in the coming week, and that they are free to ask others in the group to help hold them accountable.
When Jacob tried to sleep the first night of his runaway journey, he was reminded through a dream that the Lord was able and willing to maintain communications with His children even in the most desolate places and lonely times. In a very special way, the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac was introducing Himself as the God of Jacob.
Besides reiterating the covenant promises that had been given to Abraham and Isaac, the Lord moved from generalities to specifics which were of great interest to Jacob. “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you” (Genesis 28:15). The personal relationship which was being established as a result of the divine initiative should be carefully noted.
The promise of the divine Presence was to be a source of encouragement to Jacob as his life unfolded. The divine plan which specifically guaranteed that he would be brought back to the land of promise must have been greatly reassuring, and the implied promises of protection and provision could not have escaped Jacob’s notice. Jacob was being confronted by the Lord as never before and he who had shown great capabilities in mastering others was meeting the Master.
Without the Lord, there would have been little hope for Jacob. Yet, the Lord in His wisdom had called him to play a significant role in the blessing of the nations. This serves as another reminder that God’s ways are not our ways and that no one is outside the possibilities of a changed life through divine intervention.
Jacob’s response to his awakening was most appropriate, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” (Genesis 28:17).
Share a time when you have kept an important promise, and perhaps a time you didn’t.
Read Genesis 28:10-17.
10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. p 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
1. What is the meaning of a promise to you?
2. Why did Jacob go toward Haran?
3. What do you think the ladder in Jacob’s dream represented?
4. What were the promises God made to Jacob?
5. Why did God promise Jacob to bring him back to the land he was on?
6. What was Jacob’s response when he woke up?
7. How many promises have you made to God that you have not kept?
8. In what ways do you believe God has shown himself faithful to you?
Jacob’s vision at Bethel was based on God’s pure grace. God appeared to Jacob to assure him of His promise of blessing and protection, prompting in Jacob a marvelous worshipful response in which he vowed loyalty. This passage answers the question of whether the Lord was also the God of Jacob and shows how Jacob’s outlook was dramatically changed. Jacob went from woe to worship, and God’s promises to his fore parents were refocused, and renewed. Jacob felt a sense of God’s love and mercy. He should have faced the wrath of Esau, but instead he received the love and promises of God.
The assurance of God’s presence should bring about in every believer the same response of worship and confidence it prompted in Jacob. This is the message from the beginning: God by grace visits His people and promises them protection and provision so that they might be a blessing to others.
Below, find some application activities to interface with this lesson. These are simply to provide ideas or to invite you to imagine and create some of your own, as you impact the lives of teens for God’s glory.
By Vandeon Griffin, Tracy Wood, and Armando Miranda
The #ONETEAM CHALLENGE is a 21-day devotional written by leaders for leaders. As co-laborers in the Seventh-day Adventist Church commissioned to lead and serve the youth and young adult generation, we share the burdens and triumphs of ministry.
In this devotional, we will walk together through scripture and journey through the lessons of life and ministry. Daily, you will be challenged with reflective questions and to share your affirmations on social media to encourage and inspire others. We are #ONETEAM!
Birthday in a Box
Spread birthday joy at shelters. Collect and assemble birthday candles, cake mix, frosting, decorations, plates, cups, napkins, and a simple toy or two in a box. Decorate the box.
Cost: Less than $10.00
Sock Collection for Homeless
Give the item most requested at homeless shelters. Collect and donate white crew socks for men, women, and children.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Paper Bag Decorating for Meals on Wheels / Food Bank Snack Pack
Add pizzazz to lunch for seniors. In addition to receiving the hot portion of the meal in a tray, Meals on Wheels recipients get the cold portion in a lunch bag. Add life to their meals by decorating lunch bags. Simply buy paper lunch bags and use your creativity, crayons, markers, stickers, or any art materials you have on hand.
Cost: Less than $5.00